House Republicans Propose Ignoring Debt Ceiling For Three Months
The short term debt ceiling increase that House Republicans will vote on this week is a bit unusual:
Forget about raising the federal debt limit. House Republicans are proposing to ignore it altogether — at least until May 18.
The House plans to vote Wednesday on a measure that would leave the $16.4 trillion debt limit intact but declare that it “shall not apply” from the date the measure passes until mid-May.
This approach — novel in modern times — would let Republicans avoid a potentially disastrous fight over the debt limit without actually voting to let the Treasury borrow more money.
The House Ways and Means Committee unveiled the measure Monday; it is scheduled for a hearing in the Rules Committee on Tuesday and to hit the House floor on Wednesday. In addition to postponing a partisan fight over the debt limit, the measure seeks to force Senate Democrats to negotiate over a formal budget resolution by mandating that lawmakers’ paychecks be held in escrow starting April 15 unless Congress adopts a comprehensive framework for spending and tax policy.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday called the House Republicans’ plan “a very significant development in reducing the conflict over this and reducing the fear over a process that had always had the potential spinning out of control.”
Carney said the administration takes heart “from the numerous statements of Republicans leading up to this decision, the statements from Republicans who made clear it was not the right thing to do to play chicken with the full faith and credit of the United States. It’s not the right thing to do to extract demands from the president and Democratic Party.”
Historically, all debt ceiling increases, even short term ones such as those we saw not infrequently in the 1980s, were for a specific monetary amount that was intended to last for a short period of time. Instead of doing that, though, the House plan would essentially make the debt ceiling meaningless for more than three months. Presumably, they are doing it this way so that legislators who support it could still say, albeit with a limited amount of credibility, that they didn’t vote to raise the debt ceiling. It’s unclear how Democrats in the Senate will respond to this, presuming it passes, but it is worth noting that, in some sense, the GOP is essentially conceding the argument of those who have advocated getting rid of the Debt Ceiling altogether.